In India, breast cancer is rapidly increasing and is becoming more common among younger women in the country. The survival rate for breast cancer in Indian is as low as 60 percent . While a mother is breastfeeding her baby, she should also be concerned about the health of her breast. Breastfeeding women are usually aware of how their breasts feel and will generally notice the physical changes in their breasts. It is quite common to find breast lumps during lactation, which might be a sign of worry about breast cancer for a mother. However, there is a small but definite chance of women developing breast cancer while in the breastfeeding phase. But often, there is a delay in evaluation and diagnosis, which can put a mother at a risk of developing advanced breast cancer. The good news is that, cancer treatment can be given as effectively to a breastfeeding mother as to any other woman. Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2018: Can You Prevent Breast Cancer? Oncologist Reveals How!
Breast Cancer Awareness month is observed every year in the month of October to create awareness and prevention of this deadly disease. Breast Cancer is caused due to a combination of several factors, thus it is vital for mothers to take tremendous care while breastfeeding, as there may be the signs or risk of breast cancer involved during this phase. While tiredness and sleepless nights during the initial months after childbirth are common, thoughts related to Breast Cancer are rare, especially on a new mother’s mind. During this phase, a mother’s body undergoes several changes, so both the mother and the doctor might assume that changes in the breasts are related to breastfeeding only.
Signs of Breast Cancer in Lactating Mothers
Lumps: Most of the time, it is observed that there are changes in the breast tissue as it accelerates the milk production. A different lump or a “dominant mass” like a palpable breast mass could be a clogged duct, a cyst or a common malignant tumour, but if all of this does not resolve within some weeks after undergoing a treatment, then you need to undergo a screening test without any delay
Redness: This represents infections like mastitis (breast swelling) and it doesn’t resolve within a few weeks of treatment, one may require imaging and biopsy, as per doctor’s advice. It is vital to take the right antibiotics with proper instructions given by your physician. A rare form of Breast Cancer ‘Inflammatory Breast Cancer’ (IBC) can grow and spread quickly, therefore timely diagnosis is very important
Bloody Milk or Baby Refusing to Have Milk From One Breast: This is mainly due to nipple trauma, issues in latching or improper positioning while latching; it is important to consult a certified lactation consultant immediately. But this kind of issue, can rarely present a form of Breast Cancer within the milk conduits
Feeling Something is Wrong With The Breast: If something is not well with your breast and you feel minor pain or discomfort while feeding your baby, one must consult a doctor immediately, as this can turn out to be a serious problem or a sign of Breast Cancer.
However, there are slight chances of women developing breast cancer while in the breastfeeding phase. But often, there is a delay in evaluation and diagnosis, which can put a mother at a risk of having breast cancer.
(This article is contributed by Dr Avinash Deo, Medical Oncologist, SL Raheja Hospital- A Fortis Associate & Dr Manjiri Mehta, Consultant Gynaecologist, Obstetrician & Laparoscopic Surgeon, Hiranandani Hospital)